I've dated enough over the past several years to know that it is a fun, scary, annoying, frustrating and sad process. The good times and the bad times have been developed as memories in my mind, and I'm grateful for both the positives and the negatives.
It's easiest to learn through experience; however, being smart in the process of dating is even more helpful. Through heartbreaks and bad decisions, I've learned a lot about dating and relationships.
Here are 23 of those lessons that I've learned by age 23:
Set standards, but don't be overly picky.
It's important to know you deserve the best. But don't create your dream guy in your head and expect to find him. If you are too picky, you'll never date anyone. You have to be more open.
Don't date someone just because you're lonely.
If you're afraid of being alone, you'll never get over that fear by continuously seeking out a companion. You have to learn to sit with the fear and get used to being alone. Find someone when you're ready, not when you need fulfillment.
You might not find your dream guy in a coffee shop.
If you are a hopeless romantic, you probably have a set vision of where you will meet the love of your life. You can't always expect to meet someone the way it happens in romantic movies. Sure, it's possible, but don't count on it.
Don't become official too soon.
Don't determine the relationship before you know you're ready and before you really know the person. It's easy to get too excited and wrapped up in dating this new person, but if you immediately jump into a relationship, it might not work out so well.
Use “I love you” sparingly.
Don't say, “I love you” just because the other person says it. Only say it if you actually feel it. They may just be words, but they are important words that can strongly affect another person. Think before you speak. Feel before you speak.
Just because he's hot, doesn't mean you don't have a shot.
Never ever settle for less just because you have low self-esteem. Be confident that whoever you're attracted to will like you for who you are. If they don't like you, then they don't know you. But it's always worth giving it a shot.
Dating apps are both good and bad.
Be wary of the types of people you may find on dating apps. Some people are just looking for those Tinder hookups, but others are actually seeking out someone to date. Trust your intuition and pay attention to the signs. It's sometimes difficult to find a genuine person on a dating app, but it is very possible.
It's best to Google someone BEFORE the date.
Doing research on the person doesn't make you a stalker. You're just looking out for yourself. I learned this the hard way when I Googled a guy AFTER our date and found out that he was arrested once for certain “indecent behavior” that I will not repeat here. Research is more helpful than you'd think.
If the relationship is only fun while drunk, end it.
If you can't enjoy this person's company while you are both sober, then you don't have a healthy relationship. Sure, it may be fun in the moment while you're both getting trashed and slurring your words. However, this won't work out in the long run.
You can still be decent at flirting if you're an awkward person.
You don't have to drop smooth pick-up lines to be a good flirt. Just be yourself and smile a lot. Awkwardness is mostly endearing, so you just have to own it. You can charm the shit out of someone without really trying.
You're not shallow if you're only attracted to his personality.
If you get to know someone and genuinely enjoy his company but can't get yourself to be physically attracted to him, you're not a terrible person. Physical attraction is, in fact, a big part of liking someone, and if that attraction isn't there, it might not work out. Don't feel too bad about it.
Pursuing the popular douche will lead to self-destruction.
The popular guy may seem hot and humorous, and you know you'd be cool if you got to date him. But chances are if you're not in his circle, he probably won't give you a decent chance. He'll just play you until he gets bored. It's best to avoid this situation altogether.
Some exes don't deserve your friendship.
While it is possible to be friends with an ex, you don't always have to try at a friendship with him. In some cases, a friendship with an ex will make you unhappy. A lot of times, exes just need to be out of your life for good. You have to decide what is best for yourself, not what's best for your ex.
Bad breakups will change you for the better.
The breakups that send you into a deep depression are the ones that will help you out the most. You learn so much from getting your heart torn to pieces. You don't just learn more about relationships, but you learn about yourself through your healing process. It might seem hard at the time, but the pain is almost worth it.
Dressing slutty won't win you an honorable man.
It's fun to wear short skirts and low-cut tops to catch the attention of guys at parties. However, if you're looking for a relationship, you're not going to find one that way. You're only going to find guys who want one-night stands. Be classy, not trashy.
Opening your heart to someone is risky, but you should take the chance.
It's terrifying to let your guard down and be completely vulnerable around someone new. But if you never do this, you'll never be able to develop a close relationship with someone. Opening up to someone is difficult at first, but it'll always be worth it. Even if someone betrays you after you open your heart, it's another valuable lesson learned.
If he tells you to change something about yourself, dump him.
If he doesn't like you the way you are, then you shouldn't be with him. I once dated a guy who convinced me to thicken my eyeliner because he thought it looked hotter that way. I didn't like my eyeliner like that, but I did it because it made me more attractive in his eyes. This was just a minor change, but it's still unacceptable.
If he doesn't like puppies, it's okay to not like him.
Sure, you can't be too picky, but it's also okay to have at least one deal breaker that can't be broken. Okay, so it's hard for me to date a guy if he doesn't like puppies, so what? Don't worry if you have some ridiculous deal breaker. However, there still might be an exception if you meet the right person.
Don't date someone just to get revenge on an ex.
I learned this while dating on of my ex's enemies. Let's just say it turned into a huge disaster. If you're simply dating someone for revenge on your ex, then you aren't taking the other person's feelings into consideration. People will only get hurt and you won't feel very satisfied in the end.
It's important to take at least a year off from dating.
If you constantly jump from relationship to relationship, you will have no time to work on yourself. It's good to take a long break from dating after a while because it'll allow you time for personal growth. This is also super important in helping you develop a stronger relationship down the road.
Sometimes grand romantic gestures are a distraction from emotional abuse.
If he's always apologizing by throwing rocks at your window like a scene from a romance movie, or buying you a giant stuffed teddy bear in exchange for forgiveness, there may be a bigger issue that he's trying to cover up. If he is constantly bringing you down, making you feel bad about yourself and essentially destroying you, then the romance isn't worth it. Pay attention to the bad signs instead of the good ones.
The one you love won't be perfect, and that's OK.
Everyone knows that if you expect someone to love you despite your imperfections, then you must be open to loving someone else's imperfections. Love requires acceptance, and if you aren't willing to accept someone fully, then you don't truly love that person.
With time and patience, you'll find the guy who will treat you right.
It's easy to give up hope when you keep suffering through breakups. But it's important to stay positive and realize that your time will come. You will meet the love of your life when you least expect it. You just have to have a little patience and a lot of open mindedness.